Paula Rego’s majestic ten-metre long mural, Crivelli’s Garden (1990-91), went on show yesterday at London’s National Gallery to much fanfare with fans of the late Portuguese artist lapping up the dramatic work filled with famous female figures and National Gallery staff (lucky participants were asked by Rego to sit for the work, including Erika Langmuir and Ailsa Bhattacharya who worked in the education department in the early 1990s). Rego’s vast painting initially hung in the gallery’s dining room where there were “ghastly light fittings”, said curator Colin Wiggins who saw first hand how Rego devised and created the work more than 30 years ago in the studio hidden away in the gallery basement.
The piece was inspired by Carlo Crivelli’s La Madonna della Rondine (The Madonna of the Swallow, after 1490). Rego took an idea and “flipped it on its head”, Wiggins quipped, saying that “she didn’t step into a picture, she stepped out of it”. Her unconventional depictions of Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Judith and Delilah—“a bit of a bruiser”, says Wiggins—also made waves. Rego’s artistic innovations are only now being fully recognised with Wiggins imploring members of the press to write in their respective articles that Crivelli’s Garden, on show until 29 October, should remain on permanent display (duly noted Colin—and we add that correspondence on the matter should be addressed to the National Gallery’s director, Gabriele Finaldi). Rego devotees, get writing….